« Alex Polish American Deli | Main | Atlantis Taverna »


Update: Arbat is closed.

In a word:  It's bringing TastyBack.

The specs: #0215
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Dane101, Isthmus, Fearful Symmetries, Insert Pithy Title Here, Cap Times, Madison Magazine, thedailypage forum; Table Talk at Isthmus; Arbat Russian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

JM ate the chebureki with an apple juice.
John ate the plov with borscht, a Baltika porter, and cherry dumplings.
Judith ate the pelmeni and crepes with strawberry confit.
Nichole ate the stuffed green peppers with a tea and a slice of "Prague."
The bill was $68, or $17/person, plus tip.
JM gave Arbat an A-; John and Nichole gave Arbat an A (see our grading rubric).

Latest Arbat news and reviews

Arbat sign

Named after a pedestrian district in Moscow, Arbat is the newest Russian restaurant in Madison, and, in fact, is the only one that serves more than pelmeni.

Arbat neon tea sign

Nichole thought the neon teacup in the front window was charming (though as it turned out the only tea they offered was Bigelow tea bags). Another charming touch was the menu. Short but well-written, it was fun just to read the descriptions of the dishes served.

Arbat drinks The beverage offerings at Arbat included Pepsi and various juices, hot tea, and, best of all, Baltika beer. John absolutely raved about the Baltika #6 porter. As well he may - it was smooth and hearty, a perfect complement to the meal.

Arbat coleslaw

The cabbage and carrot salad that Nichole and Judith sampled as a starter was heavily salted, yet fresh-tasting, with a light vinaigrette dressing and parsley garnish.

Arbat borscht

John, who opted for the borscht, was mightily pleased. The soup was "out of this world yummy." It had just enough beety earthiness without being overwhelming.

The plov, a rice dish with turmeric, chicken, and carrots, among other things, was described on the menu as an Uzbek favorite. John liked how the spices gave it a nice Eastern flavor, while the dark chicken meat helped it retain its solidly Russian character.

Arbat peppers

The stuffed green peppers were filled with rice and a creamy tomato sauce that had just a bit of a bite to it. The texture was velvety and delightful. Later, the pepper Nichole took home was a great lunch, and the dill in the sauce shone through when the sauce had cooled off a bit.

Arbat pelmeni

Judith's authentic pelmeni with sour cream was very, very good & tender. The little meaty dumplings were, like all the dishes at Arbat, heavily garnished with fresh parsley.

Arbat chebureki

As the menu says, "Life without chebureki is a pure waste." JM would agree.  These delicacies are sort of like a Russian Sausage and Onion Hot Pocket, only about a thousand times better.  He, too, took half his food home and found it just as good reheated in the oven as it was freshly made.  The value on this food is amazing.

Arbat crepes

The crepes were good, too - made better by more sour cream & strawberry confit.

Prague chocolate cake

The four-layer German-style chocolate cake, called "Prague," had a lovely presentation. According to the menu, it "overwhelms all the defenses of your senses," and Nichole will agree that it was very tasty.

Arbat cherry dumplings

John had one thing to say about the cherry dumplings: OMFG!!! They were so, so good. By this point in the meal, there were several items we'd declared were worth coming back for on their own. Add it all up and you have a wonderful dining experience.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

MMM... Makes me want to take a trip to Madison! :o)

Okay, I need to know what the whole TastyBack thing is about. It's got to be "from" something, but the one lonely MySpace hit I find doesn't explain it either. I don't like being not-in on the joke!

Sorry for being in any way obtuse. Try swapping SEX for TAST.

Oooh, I'm so out of touch. That's not even a little obtuse. Shows you what I pay attention to... wow.

W o O o w .. mouthwatering!! :)

I'm from Makkah, Saudi Arabia, and we do have the pelmeni dumplings and the chebureki here but of course under different names (Shoshabarah and Samboosak), and they too came to the area long time ago through Muslim Russians..

I stopped at Arbat a few months ago, and found the borscht to be a little bowl of heaven, and I would love to duplicate the golubtsi. Yum!

Still one of the best restaurants in town hands-down, and I do not say that lightly. Sweet, authentic and very down to earth. The atmosphere is civilized, the servers are sweet (and quite charming), the extensive selection of Baltika beer is worth a happy afternoon of exploration by every true beer aficionado in town.

Russian food is wonderful comfort food and one of the great ethnic cuisines that I could happily eat every night and never grow weary of.

Sad that they no longer have the stuffed green peppers on the menu. My date was really looking forward to those. That said - delicious food - the pelmani was tasty and my date had the stuffed pork chop which was also tasty.

We came in for the first time on 6/27/08 and there were 5 adults and one baby. We felt very uncomfortable and unwelcomed when we arrived. The server was the worst server we have ever encountered. Very rude and unaccomadating. We were afraid to ask any questions because of her attitude, and when we left there was no goodbye or thank-you. For being a new business this was the worst service ever!!!!!! It's to bad because we came as a family from a Ukranian background and we were excited about the restaurant. Never again will we make the mistake of even spending another cent there. We will let others know. Beware!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've been to going to Arbat since the other half and I moved here over a year ago. I've been there several times - mostly with the other half, but with others as well - and have never had a bad experience. I've never seen more than just the one server, and she is incredibly sweet. If Mr./Ms. Anonymous had a bad experience with her, it's likely to be his/her own fault or the fault of someone in the party. I don't think we're getting the whole story here, but I'm not surprised, given that there's no name (and therefore no accountability) attached to the comment.

Ate here about a year ago, and again on 8-2. Don't remember exactly what was on the old menu, but there were definately fewer items on this visit. I think there are different owners now. As for the service, it was on this side of brusk, but that doesn't bother me so much, I go for the food.

The dark rye rolls that started the meal were really good, but they came with Country Crock spread. WHY??? There was 1/4 cup of sour cream with my perogies, but they couldn't give up some dairy love for the butter??? (Sorry "spread" is one of my peeves.)

We started with the olive salad, that strangely had no olives in it. Also the menu said it had chicken in it, but no obvious chicken in the mix. It was more like a carrot, pea, sweet pickle, and egg mayo salad.

Entrees were noted as coming with a shot of vodka, but we weren't asked what brand we wanted or were offered any when we ordered.

We had the beef stroganoff both times, and the last time was definately better, but this time wasn't bad either.

Still many notches better than Chili-Bee's and a good dining value. I would give them another go around.

Country Crock? I hope they don't get busted. Wisconsin Statute 97.18(4) reads:

"The serving of colored oleomargarine or margarine at a public eating place as a substitute for table butter is prohibited unless it is ordered by the customer."

I really enjoyed my food last time I was there. Now that Pelmini is closed on State Street, I need to return to get my dumpling fix.

My thoughts exactly, Elizabeth! (I feel strongly enough about butter that I bought the tshirt.)

I love this restaurant. I eat here as often as I can. I have lived and studied in Ukraine, and absolutely love East European cuisine. I know the menu like the back of my hand, simply from numerous visits, so I have several replies. First, regarding service: you can obviously see that there is one server running the entire restaurant. I know it is smaller, but still, service is service, and does not necessarily mean over the top friendliness and being overly talkative. Servers are present to serve your food. Regarding the margarine/butter fiasco, that must have been an honest mistake, like they ran out and had to buy more or something, because I always see butter. To the person complaining about the "Olive" salad... it is "OLIVIE" with an extra "I." This does not mean "olive" rather it is a type of salad with potatoes, carrots, peas, etc... plus the chicken is cut into squares and when covered in mayonnaise, could be hard to see. What I would suggest, is quite simply, to READ the menu, everything is listed, ingredient-wise. And, the beef stroganoff is not an "Arbat Signature Item" and thus, should not be accompanied by a complimentary shot of vodka, so to the person mentioning that, again, read the menu, and if a business offers something complimentary, or FREE, typically there aren't a lot of options. I would strongly encourage anyone, looking for comfort food or a different spin on a home-cooked meal, to drop by and experience Arbat.

I've posted a lengthy review of Arbat at the Isthmus Daily Page forum:


I gave Arbat a solid B.

I finally got to go here last night. I've been wanting to try this place for quite a while, based on your review and a few others. Everyone in my group had a wonderful meal. Everything was simple, but well prepaired and very tasty. The shot of vodka I had was steller. But we were the only table there the whole time we were there, which was quite a long time. People need to go to this place, I would hate to see it go out of buisness.

The wifey and I met previous commenters Kat and Parintachin at Arbat for a lovely meal (and cheese hand-off). First visit for us.

Siberian pelmeni for me, spinach and cheese vareniki for her. Both perfect. Baltika #4 (dark lager) was ever-so-slightly fruity and matched the cherry vareniki we had for dessert.

Arbat falls into the same category as Curry in the Box and Liliana's for West Madison/Fitchburg eateries worth making a trip from the East side to visit. Awesome.

I'm not sure what to make of it, but I went with a friend last night and was suprised by the lack of menu options. I swear, the only entrees on the menu were Pelmeni and Pierogis (sorry for any spelling errors). They did have borscht and olivie salad (though they were out of the latter at the time) as well as speda (which I probably misspelled, but it tasted a bit like egg salad). We didn't do anything in the way of deserts, so we didn't really peruse the menu. Also they didn't have hot tea, but they may have just been out.

I should point out that the food was very good, and I'm certainly not complaining. But there seems to be a very tapered down menu now. I don't even recall the vareniki that Kyle mentioned, and that was in the week beforehand. Everything we had was great, but there just wasn't a lot of options.

I hope that it was a temporary outage or seasonal thing. I really liked what I had there at any rate, and look forward to going back. And more options will just encourage me.

When I went back in Oct, they did not have many more options then what you mentioned. They did have a couple of specials depending on what day of the week you were there.

Our dining companions (regulars there) mentioned how pared back the menu has gotten since JM and Nichole went there.

While what I had was very good, yes, I was disappointed in the fact that my favorite items (the Zarski and the Golubtse) were gone from the menu. It won't prevent me from dining there - I'll just have to learn to make my own.

That slice of "Prague" is actually a Carl's Cake. Curious minds wanted to know....

The menu is definitely shorter than previous visits. Luckily, they still have our favorites, the Siberian pelmeni and the mushroom pelmeni. I was excited to see the tables mostly filled on a Saturday night. A few times the place has been so empty that I worried about its survival. I am still said that Pelmeni Restaurant on State St. closed.

We decided to be adventurous and try something from the vareniki/pierogi section. Todd got the meat; I got the spinach and cheese. We both enjoyed the dishes, but we both prefer the pelmeni.

I'd asked about the missing entrees the last time I ate here, as the Zarski and Golubtse were my favorites as well. I was told that the sales of the non-dumpling items weren't enough to justify keeping them on the menu. My heart broke a bit to hear her say that the chef routinely threw away most of the stroganoff at the end of the night.

If you STILL miss the State Street Pelmeni, give Arbat a try. The siberian pelmeni (beef, pork and onion)that I had were succlent and I have been craving them the rest of the week. It banished my remaining longing for the rocks served on State Street! Mushroom pelmeni was also very good, nicely seasoned. The potato pierogi did not have as much dill flavor as we'd hoped, based on the description. The cabbage side salad that came with everything was a zingy, refreshing counterpoint to the richness of the main dishes. Waitress was very friendly and attentive. This is A plus comfort food.

Went there tonight - it's gone! Anybody know if this is permanent? I'm hoping they're just moving to a better location...

I hope that they're not gone forever, but I have a feeling they might be. The place was pretty empty every time we went, and my husband and I always wondered how they managed to stay in business. This is too bad - I really liked the place!

The comments to this entry are closed.


Listen to The Corner Table podcast "Remembering Restaurants," aired December 24, 2020, where Chris and Lindsay talk with us "about the menus and memories left behind when restaurants go away."

Madison Food coverInfo about our book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is here, or read it for free thanks to the library - print & ebook.



About Follow madisonatoz on Twitter Contact
Blogroll Ad 
Free Blog
Read our book and food tour
Dish du jour Creative Commons License subscribe to RSS Subscribe
Memo to restaurants Bloggers' Rights at EFF Quizzes
Reflections BlogWithIntegrity.com Tip jar
Banner image by Kayla Morelli, Red Wheelbarrow Design